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Council OKs inspection plan revision

October 09, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council Tuesday gave general approval to revising the proposed rental registration license program to reduce the frequency of inspections in an earlier version of the proposal.

The council is scheduled to vote at the Oct. 22 meeting on the ordinance creating the program.

At its Sept. 24 meeting, the Hagerstown City Council voted 4-1 to introduce an ordinance that would create the controversial rental registration program designed to improve rental housing in the city. Councilman Lewis C. Metzner voted against introducing the ordinance.

Under that version of the program, property owners would pay an annual fee of $45 per rental unit to pay for more frequent inspections of properties. Properties would be inspected after a license application was submitted and every 24 months afterward.

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Under the version discussed Tuesday, and on the agenda for the Oct. 22 meeting, the properties would be inspected every 36 months or when there was a change in occupancy, whichever occurs first.

Metzner said he would support the revised version of the ordinance, which also requires the notification of tenants before an inspection.

Under the original proposal, all city rental units would be inspected annually. Currently, rental properties are only inspected in response to complaints, city officials have said.

Alan Johnson, president of the Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County, has urged landlords and tenants to protest the program, which he said is unfair because it punishes all property owners for the misdeeds of a few.

Johnson said he prefers the new version to the earlier versions.

The ordinance exempts the 1,180 rental units owned by the Hagerstown Housing Authority, which the authority inspects twice a year.

The ordinance also exempts newly built apartments for a period of one year after the issuance of the use and occupancy permit.

The city estimates there are 9,214 rental units in Hagerstown.

City officials said the rental licensing fee would pay the salaries for six new inspectors and an administrative assistant. The city has four inspectors.

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